Toddlers: 12 - 24 Months

Vent - Fight with DH over LO not eating

We have a 23 month old who is very stubborn and happens to be a picky eater.  Last night I served a casserole similar to ones she's had in the past and liked.  She refused to eat it, but I gave in and gave her a hotdog which she gobbled up.  Tonight I served the same thing for supper and again she refused to eat.  I was feeling a little stubborn myselft so I told her she had to try one bite before she could be done.  She cried for 20 minutes and I continued to offer her the bite.  Meanwhile my DH is telling me I have too many rules and thinks she's too young to understand this.  By this time I was doubting my discipline, but felt like I had to stick with it.  She eventually threw the bite on the floor and I told her she's done but she doesn't get any snacks tonight and I let her out of her chair.

So is she too young for this discipline and what techniques do you suggest for picky eaters of this age?  TIA!

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Re: Vent - Fight with DH over LO not eating

  • They say time outs can start at 18 months.  At 23 months, I personally think the vast majority of toddlers understand that level of "discipline" if you will.  My boys are only 16 months, and we'll say things like "if you want your sippy, you have to have one more bite" and they'll have the bite and reach for the sippy.

    Stand your ground now and it'll be easier later, imo.

    Good luck!

  • Sorry, I know its frustrating, but she is definitely too young to be disciplined for her eating habits.  She is not rejecting the food as an evil plot against you, she is just being a typical toddler. When my son was that age, his eating was horrendous! I definitely threw out more on a daily basis than what actually went into his stomach (which was next to nothing most days!), but like all phases he outgrew it.  Tonight he polished off a huge plate of shrimp scampi and has already requested pork chops for dinner tomorrow!

     

  • I usually put what we're eating on her plate, plus one or two fruits or vegetables.  That way she has a little bit of a choice. 

    I think you did the right thing by encouraging her to eat what you made.  I wouldn't go and make a whole other meal.  I think this IS the time when they are learning that you made a meal and expect them to eat it.  It does seem to take time for them to learn, though.  DD doesn't always eat what I fix, either.

     

  • BOTH of mine are picky...they are 3 and 16 months. the 3 yo has always been picky. I now make their dinner with one new thing and 2 other things i know they like. if they don't eat...then thats it...down from the table. They will eat when they are hungry. its not like you aren't offering them food.

    at first i was making a million and one things but now i keep reminding myself...they will eat if they are hungry.

  • I'm a firm believer in options for the kids. For example, offer her the casserole, some fruit, a grain, and/or a veggie. That is her dinner. Sit and have a conversation w/her and DH. Let her experiment with the food. I would also play it up with DH and say 'Oh, look at that bite Daddy took! Good job Daddy!!"

    Focus on the positves and not the negatives.

  • Per our pedi's advice, my kids are usually on the "what I serve is what's for dinner" plan from basically when they start table food on.  I absolutely refuse to make 5 meals every time we sit down at the table.  I am less strict with lunch and breakfast where I give a few options, but dinner is almost always what I serve.  I do try to have something on their plates that I know they'll usually eat, but sometimes that's just the roll.  Usually the kids have to try a bite of everything on their plates before they're allowed seconds of whatever they like.  For example, if they want more mashed potatoes, they have to try their grilled chicken and asparagus.  They don't have to eat everything on their plates, but they have to try it to get seconds of anything or have a chance at dessert.  And no one gets anything else until breakfast.

    DS is officially failure-to-thrive, so we've been a bit more lenient with him, but it's coming back to bite us even now.  We will usually give him a yogurt or cheese stick or something healthy if he refuses to eat.  We also usually give him dessert if he doesn't eat dinner (something we never did with the girls).  The girls were on this "plan" for as long as they can remember and they know the routine.  The longer you wait to go this route, the harder it is and the more fits you endure (as I'm learning).  DS's new gastroenterologist is highly encouraging us to push DS to follow this and stop catering to him just because he's tiny so I'm trying but it's so much worse.  With the girls, it was just what was put in front of them from about 9-10 months on (with babyfood at the time), so they never knew the difference. DS is old enough to know he's gotten what he's wanted in the past so he is a mess.  So I'll say I side with you and the earlier you put your foot down, the easier it's going to be if/when you have more kids. Otherwise, you really will be making 4 and 5 meals at once.  Literally.

  • I agree with your DH.  Don't make food a battleground, but do not offer to make her another meal.  Offer the casserole, a fruit, veggie or yogurt with dinner.  She has 3 or 4 choices.  If she doesn't eat anything let her step away from the table and keep the plate ready for when she is hungry.  But don't allow her to snack on anything else later.  
  • Another thing I should have mentioned - if we give her options, she'll pick her favorite out (usually fruit, cheese or bread) and won't even try anything else.  This is why we've gone back to only offering the main dish to begin with and if she tries that then she gets the other things she likes.  Is this wrong to do?
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  • Try to think of logical consequences when you discipline.  Dinner was over when it went on the floor.  

    I applaud you for sticking to your guns tonight. 

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  • I don't think she's too young - LO is a really picky eater too.  I cannot give him what we eat - he'd never eat.  I prepare a separate dinner for him but it's nothing complicated.  If he refuses the food I made for him, I take it away and offer it later.  It's a really tough thing - hard to find a balance between being firm for their own good and not letting them go without eating.
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  • Tonight DS had Baked ziti and yogurt.  He didn't want to ziti at all at first and it looked like his dinner would only consist of yogurt.  When he was done with the yogurt I heated the ziti up again and served it in a bowl instead of just on his tray and he gobbled it up.  Sometimes all I need to do is offer a spoon or a fork and he eats. Sometimes he doesn't eat much.  That's life.  Another meal will come around in a few hours. He won't starve to death.
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  • image ANJ410:

    Sorry, I know its frustrating, but she is definitely too young to be disciplined for her eating habits.  She is not rejecting the food as an evil plot against you, she is just being a typical toddler.

    this exactly.  we respect our daughter's autonomy.  if she doesn't want to eat something, she doesn't have to.  i don't force my husband to try everything on the plate, so i don't know why i'd force my child.  

  • image homebody2:
    Another thing I should have mentioned - if we give her options, she'll pick her favorite out (usually fruit, cheese or bread) and won't even try anything else.  This is why we've gone back to only offering the main dish to begin with and if she tries that then she gets the other things she likes.  Is this wrong to do?

    Honestly, I'd be okay with her only eating the fruit, cheese, bread, etc. At least she's eating SOMEthing. Picky toddler years won't last forever and eventually she'll try new things again. I'm hesitant to make food a battle, even at this age. With all the disordered eating in younger and younger kids I don't want me forcing her to eat something only make her more adamant about not eating, KWIM?

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  • image homebody2:
    Another thing I should have mentioned - if we give her options, she'll pick her favorite out (usually fruit, cheese or bread) and won't even try anything else.  This is why we've gone back to only offering the main dish to begin with and if she tries that then she gets the other things she likes.  Is this wrong to do?

    DD does that, too - she'll sometimes just eat one thing because it's something she really likes.  Our pediatrician said that's fine - she's eating.  She's also not even 2 yet - they go through stages where they are fussy.

  • I totally agree with a previous poster about not making mealtime into a battle.  I always offer food from the grains, meat, vegetable and fruit group for meals.  That generally gives her the chance to at least eat something she's in the mood for.  We don't discuss what she has to eat, we just tell her that Mommy and Daddy aren't done eating yet, so we will get her cleaned up when we are done.  This way she doesn't feel forced to eat anything, but she knows she's not going anywhere until we're done, so she might as well eat whatever's appealing in the meantime.  Sometimes she doesn't eat much at all.  Sometimes she does.  We just try to make sure we don't make it a battle.  Studies have shown that picky eaters will get the nutrition they need when given healthy food options and making their own choices.

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  • This nearly exactly.

    image Ciarrai:

     "what I serve is what's for dinner" plan from basically when they start table food on.  I absolutely refuse to make 5 meals every time we sit down at the table.  I am less strict with lunch and breakfast where I give a few options, but dinner is almost always what I serve.  I do try to have something on their plates that I know they'll usually eat.  Usually the kids have to try a bite of everything on their plates before they're allowed seconds of whatever they like.  For example, if they want more mashed potatoes, they have to try their grilled chicken and asparagus.  They don't have to eat everything on their plates, but they have to try it to get seconds of anything or have a chance at dessert.  And no one gets anything else until breakfast.

    Dd2 is 18 mos or so, tonight Dd1 finished her dinner and got dessert (fruit and yogurt) dd2 hadn't eatten her carrots.

    Me "one more carrot and you can have your dessert"

    dd2 points and whines at the yogurt.

     "One more carrot"

    Dd2 two, "all done" crying

    Me "So you don't want your yogurt"

    Dd2 picks up a carrot and eats it. I put the yogurt and strawberries down and she smiles and happily eats it. Toddlers totally know what you are talking about.

    In our house there are three meals, and 1 snack. I serve lunch early bc I noticed if they got a morning snack they didn't eat lunch. Afternoon snack is almost always a veggi or fruit. Stand your ground, you won't regret it, it will prevent much later on. That being said, I usually have 3 things on the plate with 1-2 that I know they like or will eat.

    I have a little list of quick easy sides I serve meals with so I'm not cooking additional foods, apple sauce, yogurt,  fruit, cheese, frozen veggies (I just run them under warm water, my kids love peas, corn, limas. When we go to the grocery I let them pick out a bag of veggies, and have a drawer at home with options)

    Also, I make meals that are kids meals that grown ups eat and vice versa. There are some nights when I make something that I know the kids won't or don't like, in which case they get something like deli turkey, frozen peas and apple sauce with wheat germ on top.

     If I am serving something they haven't tried before or need encouragement with I usually have dessert or something for good girls who eat a good dinner. I don't fight with them about eatting, if they don't eat, they don't eat.

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  • My son is quite picky. I usually cook extra of most things so we always have some "go to" leftovers in the frige. If i am serving something he hasn't eaten in the past I will add a leftover I know he likes to his meal. Many toddlers have to be offered the same food over and over again before they will try it. Per my pedi's advice I don't fight with him over food. I can't force him to eat and would rather him not have a bunch of negative meal associations. His palate is slowly re expanding (he used to be a great eater) so this work for us. Just this week alone he has decided to love broccoli. And the seemingly small amounts he eats doesn't seem to be hurting him. He's off the charts at 34 inches and 31 lbs.
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  • Sorry, but I agree with your DH. I never make it a battle of wills over food. If she's doesn't want what I serve, then I take her out of the high chair--end of story. No hard feelings from me. She'll eat when she is hungry. 
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  • I agree with ecoppins on everything.  Even at 19 months (almost), DS definitely understands the "if you eat one bite of peas, you can have your dessert" though he pretends not to.

    I also totally disagree with dinnerfor2.  Meals are not a battle at our house and I love that.  The kids eat or they don't.  We don't make a big deal out of it.  All of the kids know the "rules" and don't ask for something else or whine or anything.  They eat or they don't eat.  They all understand things like "if you eat a bite of your veggies, you can have more potatoes" or whatever, but that's not a battle.  It's a statement.  They do it or they don't.  No big deal.  Sometimes dessert is offered if they eat well (they don't have to clean their plates, but eat fairly balanced).  Sometimes dessert isn't. 

    All three kids are expected to sit at the table and "chat"/be part of the family for the length of the meal (fairly short considering we have three kids under 6) or else they go to bed.  That's another rule in our house.  They'll tell us about their day (the girls) laugh at the dogs, make faces at each other, listen to us talk about our days, whatever.  The girls do a "favorite thing that day" and "least favorite thing that day" at dinner.  It's nice because a lot of my friends say they didn't hear anything about what their kids did at camp/school and the "favorite thing" or "least favorite thing" gets them talking about their day.  We started with DH and I sharing our favorites and then started least favorites recently.  It's important to us to sit down to dinner as a family even if the kids don't eat and we want to start that habit out now so we continue as the kids grow up.

  • I agree with your DH.

    In our house - I give him some of what we are eating as well as a few of his healthy favorites - kidney beans, cheese, some kind of green veggies.  He usually starts by eating what he is used to and then moves onto the 'new' thing. If he didn't, though, I would not make a battle over this.

    I don't want either of my kids having "food" issues.  I make sure that the get a healthy, well-rounded diet by eating the foods that they do like.  i.e. He likes kidney beans and peanut butter - There's his protein.  Milk is calcium.  He loves green veggies - That's taken care of.  I always offer him new foods but if he doesn't want it, I'm not going to make a battle over it.  

    Here's a great article by Dr. Sears...

    http://www.askdrsears.com/topics/feeding-infants-toddlers/feeding-picky-eater-17-tips

    Why make a big deal of this?  

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  • We have not had this issue, but I am in the you eat what I make or nothing all. I refuse to make five different meals. It is difficult enough to make one meal at dinner time with a toddler running around let alone having to make two or three or whatever the case maybe. Growing up this was the rules in my house you eat what mom makes or nothing at all. In DH's house his mom made different meals. I told him from the beginning that I would never do such a thing. He agrees with me.

    That being said I usually make 2-3 different things with a meal. If we are having a casserole there is usually a veggie side and a fruit side. So there is choices. However I am sure there will come a time when my toddler will just out right not want it regardless of liking it or not. If she does not it, no big deal, she will eat it if she is really hungry. 

     

  • image Ciarrai:

    I agree with ecoppins on everything.  Even at 19 months (almost), DS definitely understands the "if you eat one bite of peas, you can have your dessert" though he pretends not to.

    I also totally disagree with dinnerfor2.  Meals are not a battle at our house and I love that.  The kids eat or they don't.  We don't make a big deal out of it.  All of the kids know the "rules" and don't ask for something else or whine or anything.  They eat or they don't eat.  They all understand things like "if you eat a bite of your veggies, you can have more potatoes" or whatever, but that's not a battle.  It's a statement.  They do it or they don't.  No big deal.  Sometimes dessert is offered if they eat well (they don't have to clean their plates, but eat fairly balanced).  Sometimes dessert isn't. 

    All three kids are expected to sit at the table and "chat"/be part of the family for the length of the meal (fairly short considering we have three kids under 6) or else they go to bed.  That's another rule in our house.  They'll tell us about their day (the girls) laugh at the dogs, make faces at each other, listen to us talk about our days, whatever.  The girls do a "favorite thing that day" and "least favorite thing that day" at dinner.  It's nice because a lot of my friends say they didn't hear anything about what their kids did at camp/school and the "favorite thing" or "least favorite thing" gets them talking about their day.  We started with DH and I sharing our favorites and then started least favorites recently.  It's important to us to sit down to dinner as a family even if the kids don't eat and we want to start that habit out now so we continue as the kids grow up.

    Love all of this, thanks for the tips!

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  • Agree with your DH, she's too young.
  • I think you did the right thing tonight, but I it sounds like you've set up a precedent of caving to her and giving her food she likes.  Obviously, if she is refusing your casserole, she is not that hungry.  My theory with picky eaters is that if they are hungry, they will eat something.  In my house, my kids are not going to grow up getting choices for dinner every night.  Whatever we make, that's what they eat.  And if they refuse, then they go to bed hungry.  I'm sure they'll only last so long before finally eating something.  My pedi said that a kid won't starve himself. 

    Another suggestion is to take snacks away, or greatly reduce them, from your DD permanently.  Does she get snacks between meals?  Maybe she is eating too much between meals and isn't hungry at dinner time.  We had that problem with DS and I now either give him no snacks or a tiny tiny bit if he asks.  I'll give him just enough cheerios or whatever to cover the bottom of his snack cup.  And I always take away whatever snack he has left 1 hour before mealtime.

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  • image ougrad1:

    Try to think of logical consequences when you discipline.  Dinner was over when it went on the floor.  

    I applaud you for sticking to your guns tonight. 

    I agree.  Your DH is a pushover and if you do things his will you'll have a teenager that only eats chicken nuggets. 

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  • image Comet4658:
    I agree with your DH.  Don't make food a battleground, but do not offer to make her another meal.  Offer the casserole, a fruit, veggie or yogurt with dinner.  She has 3 or 4 choices.  If she doesn't eat anything let her step away from the table and keep the plate ready for when she is hungry.  But don't allow her to snack on anything else later.  

    I agree with this. DD isn't picky, but she has definitely gone through phases. What seems to work is to just give her the choices and not stare her down while she eats. She can pick around what she doesn't like/doesn't want to try and if she is hungry enough and no one is insisting,  she might even try the previously-reviled item on the plate.

    If you sit there and insist and insist, it just becomes a battle of wills, and that doesn't do anyone any good.

    And I wouldn't want to give a kid a time-out for not eating. Not getting to eat is punishment enough, IMO.

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  • image homebody2:
    image Ciarrai:

    I agree with ecoppins on everything.  Even at 19 months (almost), DS definitely understands the "if you eat one bite of peas, you can have your dessert" though he pretends not to.

    I also totally disagree with dinnerfor2.  Meals are not a battle at our house and I love that.  The kids eat or they don't.  We don't make a big deal out of it.  All of the kids know the "rules" and don't ask for something else or whine or anything.  They eat or they don't eat.  They all understand things like "if you eat a bite of your veggies, you can have more potatoes" or whatever, but that's not a battle.  It's a statement.  They do it or they don't.  No big deal.  Sometimes dessert is offered if they eat well (they don't have to clean their plates, but eat fairly balanced).  Sometimes dessert isn't. 

    All three kids are expected to sit at the table and "chat"/be part of the family for the length of the meal (fairly short considering we have three kids under 6) or else they go to bed.  That's another rule in our house.  They'll tell us about their day (the girls) laugh at the dogs, make faces at each other, listen to us talk about our days, whatever.  The girls do a "favorite thing that day" and "least favorite thing that day" at dinner.  It's nice because a lot of my friends say they didn't hear anything about what their kids did at camp/school and the "favorite thing" or "least favorite thing" gets them talking about their day.  We started with DH and I sharing our favorites and then started least favorites recently.  It's important to us to sit down to dinner as a family even if the kids don't eat and we want to start that habit out now so we continue as the kids grow up.

    Love all of this, thanks for the tips!

    We also do something similar to this and at 18 months, while she can't share about her day exactly, she does talk with us and interact with us.  We also don't make meals a big deal, but she is only offered what we are eating and if she doesn't want it, she doesn't get anything else.  If she wants more of something (potato's or whatever) she always has to eat a bite of something she hasn't eaten and she understands that perfectly.  Does she do it all the time?  No and then she doesn't get more of the other food.  Or, the other day, she purposfully spilled her milk.  When she does it accidentally there is no consequence but when she did it on purpose I made her sit there until she had drank 3 more sips of milk.  It took 1/2 hour of her crying before she did, but since then she hasn't spilled her milk on purpose and if I tell her she needs to drink more milk she will.  Sometimes you just have to decide when to fight and when not to and I think that you are doing good.  At 23 months she is old enough to understand eat what's offered or don't eat.  Stick to your guns!

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